Along with Mark Dever, I agree that one of the nine marks of a healthy church is expositional preaching (I’m sure there are other characteristics of a healthy church, but his book is very good). The 9Marks ministry defines expositional preaching as a sermon which takes the point of the text as the point of the sermon. I love expositional preaching. It is where context determines meaning and meaning is proclaimed loudly above the droning hum of the present day’s worldview. Quite frankly, we need more preachers to proclaim the excellencies of Christ through the Word of God in the context of passages within the context of books within the biblical narrative! It’s not that I dislike topical sermons or narrative preaching; it’s more that I find them to be less effective at producing true spiritual formation (generally speaking). Of course, I say this tongue in cheek because I’m currently working through a topical series on missional living called “Reaching Out without Selling Out” (thanks Mark Driscoll!)… so save the emails and comments!
Yes, I love expositional preaching. I love listening to it and I love the opportunity to do it. In my opinion, expositional preaching, when rightly done, is exegetical preaching at its finest. Again, it’s not that I haven’t listened to some very powerful topical sermons; rather, I have grown more from expositional preaching over the course of time.
I probably enjoy it most due to its exegetical nature. But this actually can present some fascinating and self-revealing problems. Consider how Dr. Fee, one of the great Greek exegetes of our day, writes on the subject…
The great danger in preaching through a biblical book, or in letting the text determine the sermon, is that the sermon itself may become an exercise in exegesis. Such a “sermon” is exposition without aim, information without focus. That may be all right in the Sunday school class setting, where one simply goes through a passage, expounding and applying as one sees fit, but it is not preaching. Preaching must be based on solid exegesis, but it is not a display of exegesis. Rather, it is applied exegesis, and it must have aim if it is to function properly.” – Gordon D. Fee, New Testament Exegesis, 147
I find Dr. Fee’s words intriguing because I can relate 100% to the statement. In fact, I have found that it is rather easy to fall into the rut of “exercising” exegetically without “exercising” expositionally. This is to say that exegesis is elevated beyond the realm of proclamation and application. In this vein, the task of the preacher becomes exegesis in and of itself. It is the means and the end. It is the all in all. Yes, Karl Barth was correct in his advice: “exegesis, exegesis, and yet more exgesis!” Yet, as Fee notes, “exegesis is not an end in itself, but must always be applied.”
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
that last cartoon is hilarious! is that how you choose your sermons? with a magic eightball??? 🙂
if i went to your church i think i’d like to listen to you preach through john because out of all that you wrote you seem most excited about that.
I added you to my RSS feed. Thanks for this latest combination of thought and testimony. I will pray that the Lord leads you to the proper text for the proper time.
Dr. Fee’s New Testament Exegesis is certainly a well presented summary of the art of exegesis. My exegesis classes all used this book and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have studied it. It was an enormous help in writing exegetical papers on texts that were rather difficult.
With this in mind, how much time do you spend in exegesis when preparing your sermons?
good post, bro!
i’ve been so blessed preaching through John’s gospel! this month marked one year, and we should be finishing chapter 16 this week, Lord willing. but i’ve seen such growth in our people in the past year in the area of theology (and thirst for truth) as we’ve tackled such weighty doctrines as God’s sovereignty in salvation, the deity of Christ, the sinfulness of man, and God’s sovereignty over evil (his ability to use sinners and even their sins in fulfilling his own good and glorious plans, without himself being tainted with sin!) from the text of John’s gospel. i’m really excited about diving into chapter 17!!!
i’m praying about choosing a shorter book next (Jude, Titus?) rather than plowing into another year or more commitment right off the bat. my first book to preach through expositionally was Ezra! 13 sermons, i believe.
our church has been blessed, as we’ve seen God providentially bring forth timely messages for us: the chapter we happen to be in that week dealing with things going on in the body right then! God is so good, and his word so glorious!
keep preaching the word of God, bro!
I’m ignorant. What’s the difference between exegetical and expositional preaching? I should probably just look up the words.
Have you ever done an exegetical study of the book of Micah? Particularly with reference to Chapter 5, and within that to verses 1 and 3?
I sometimes see the difference between topical preaching and exegetical preaching as the difference between coming to God, saying “Lord, you’ve laid this idea on my heart: how do I express it?” and “Lord, you’ve brought me to this part of your Word today: what message do you have for me and everyone who will hear this?” I think the second is sometimes more fun for you as a presenter, since it’s the joy of discovery that we sitting in the pews get each week: we’re here now, Lord, what are you trying to tell us?
At my church, the person who reads the scripture passage for the morning usually prays before Pastor speaks. The usual prayer is that God would lead and direct the speaker as he delivers the message. When I’ve done that, I always pray that God would include the rest of us into the incredible stuff He’s already been revealing and that our minds and hearts would be opened to receive it. I mean, He’s been working with you on the content for a couple of days, and I want to get it all in 45 minutes? Turn up the power, Spirit!!!
Personally, I’d love to hear any of the options above… but then again, I’d only catch bits of it. hmmmm…. MP3 audio exchange?!?!?
Michael, I really enjoy the way you explain topical and expository. That’s generally how I would explain it in the context of how I share within the two styles.
I’m actually hoping that the next “series” will be a combination of both, which is why I’m praying that the Spirit gives me unction for a book of the Bible and then we can mine, mine, and mine some more! Oh the treasure of God’s word!
On a side note… I haven’t had a chance to respond to your previous thoughts on the smoking discussion but I was pleasantly surprised to find that you are a part of a Reformed church! I also enjoy much of Richard Mouw. I actually really liked his book Calvinism in a Las Vegas Airport though I was not as supportive of his opinions on mormonism or his critiques of Christian Hedonism 🙂
That’s a great quote, Luke. I have several of Fee’s commentaries but I have not read that book. Is it similar to his book on reading the bible for all it is worth?
Good stuff, Luke. I get excited about expositional preaching and teaching; as someone who loves the Word, I thoroughly enjoy the way truth jumps straight off the page at you when you exegete the Scriptures well. Some say this type of teaching and preaching tends to be boring, but I absolutely disagree. On the flip side, topical and narrative teaching and preaching are okay, but it is absolutely critical that the hard work of exegesis be done well first; otherwise the content will be watered down, off base or incorrectly interpreted. People who teach in these styles must be careful to extract what the Holy Spirit was originally saying through the author, otherwise the sermon or teaching ceases to be the Word of God and becomes the words of man supported improperly by the Bible.